Simon Sinek gave an excellent presentation on TED talk called “Start with Why” based on his book of the same name. I highly recommend you watch it or better yet, read the book, but I had a revelation that I think is based on having seen this a few years ago. To give you just enough information for context, but not to re-explain the entire presentation, the basic idea is that your ‘why’ or your reason for doing something not only governs how you go about getting there, but also affects how compelling you are and whether others will be attracted.
As an example, I’ll use our fitness business. There are roughly a gazillion gyms and personal trainers out there (we did the market research so we know. Gazillion. Trust me.) The first thing we did was ask ourselves WHY we wanted to open a gym. Now part of it is because we love working out, but believe me, we’re not so obsessed that we thought “The only way we’ll get enough exercising in is to open our own gym. That way they can’t keep kicking us out for ‘closing time’”. Close, but no. What we realized is that we both firmly believe that people can more fully enjoy their lives in all aspects when they are at their fittest. Others may not agree, and that’s okay, but that’s really our why. That is our best way to be of service and to do what we love. Anyway, that’s not the revelation, just an example.
The revelation came in context with parenting. I was wondering why people are SO polarized on child rearing philosophies. I spent a great deal of my maternity leave with both Bisky and the Beasties reading stuff online about parenting and was shocked to see how little consensus there is. One forum basically had two camps: People who believed that sleep training your baby (i.e. let them cry it out) was a mild form of child abuse that would leave a child incapable of forming secure emotional bonds with anyone, and people who thought those people were complete nutjobs. It seemed pretty volatile. Anyway, I think I figured out the issue. It has to do with the “Why”.
If your “Why” is to raise “happy” children I think your methods and orientation will be radically different than if “Why” is to raise “Productive members of society” or “God fearing adults” for example. I think the latter two take it for granted that happiness is a by-product of achieving the why, but not a first level goal. I think if your goal is to make sure your children are happy then you could quite likely decide that sleep training, saying ‘no’, disciplining, ensuring they never experience a consequence for their actions, or a number of other things were detrimental to your goal and choose not to do them. Similar is the self esteem issue. There are a lot of very intelligent people who firmly believe that you give people self esteem by telling them they’re wonderful. Other, also intelligent people think people get self esteem by doing estimable things. My opinion is we probably won’t really know how this turns out for another ten to twenty years when all these kids are adults and/or parents themselves. I do predict one thing; based on a tendency to do things completely differently than we experienced, that in two generations we will definitely see a return of sleep training and the ‘No’ word. Just sayin’.